Secret Ingredient Gluten-Free Brownies

August 13, 2012

in Cupcakes & Cakes

Gluten-Free Brownies

After my stomach forgave me for last weekend’s cinnamon bun situation, I developed a fierce craving for chocolate. What else is new, right? I’ve stopped keeping chocolate in the house, which is surprisingly less earth-shattering than I expected, so that it forces me to make something with cocoa powder, rather than mindlessly eating a pre-made bar or housing a bag of chocolate chips.

Normally, I’ll just throw together a smoothie or freeze a mixture of cocoa powder, coconut oil, and stevia and get on with my day, but I felt like making brownies, even with the 87% humidity. And not only did I feel like turning on the oven, I wanted to challenge myself to create something vegan, gluten-free, oil-free, and with no processed sugar. I know some people are already rolling their eyes and yelling at me through their computer screens, so let me give you something to get even more up in arms about: I also wanted to use black beans.

Gluten-Free Vegan Brownies

Perhaps the most polarizing ingredient when it comes to sweets, beans in desserts really seems to set people off. I am very much of the mindset that if you want to indulge in the real deal, you absolutely should go for it. Life is too short to pretend that things like coconut butter spread between two dates tastes like an Oreo. It doesn’t. I happen to like those ingredients, but Oreos they are not.

Vegan Brownies

Sometimes though, I want a dessert I can feel good about eating. One that isn’t going to spike my blood sugar, make me crash an hour later, and then send me on a quest for my next sugar fix. And sometimes, I want to eat a brownie for breakfast. These are those brownies.

Black Bean Brownies

While there’s no denying they don’t taste like a Betty Crocker mix, I like them in their own right. They’re naturally and lightly sweetened with mashed bananas and a little agave nectar, super chocolatey from the hefty dose of cocoa powder, and dense and almost fudge-like from the black beans.

Healthy Brownies

And about those beans – I blended them for several minutes with the other wet ingredients and essentially turned them into a puree. Taste and texture-wise, you’ll never know they’re there.

Oil-Free Brownies

If you feel like making these brownies more indulgent, here’s where that coconut butter comes into play:  spoon the coconut butter straight out of the jar onto your brownies or mix it with some cocoa powder and a splash of non-dairy milk for a healthy alternative to chocolate frosting. Coconut butter is magical.

Vegan & Gluten-Free Black Bean Brownies
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 9-12 brownies
  • 1 C. Cooked Black Beans
  • ½ C. Mashed Banana (about 1.5 Bananas)
  • ½ C. Cocoa Powder
  • ¼ C. Brown Rice Flour
  • ¼ C. Sorghum Flour
  • ¼ C. Tapioca or Potato Starch
  • 1 Tbs. Gluten-Free Baking Powder
  • ¼ Tsp. Xanthan Gum
  • ¼ Tsp. Sea Salt
  • ½ C. Unsweetened Non-Dairy Milk
  • 2 Tbs. Agave Nectar (or sweetener of choice)
  • 2 Tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • Cooking Spray (I like coconut oil)
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Lightly grease an 8x8 baking pan and set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, add the cocoa powder, flours, tapioca/potato starch, baking powder, xanthan gum, and sea salt and stir to combine.
  4. In the bowl of a food processor, add the cooked black beans, mashed bananas, non-dairy milk, sweetener, and vanilla. Process for 2-3 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed, until the beans are well-pureed.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the food processor bowl and pulse several times until everything is combined.
  6. Transfer the brownie batter to the prepared pan and bake for approximately 30 minutes. When the brownies are done, the top should feel firm to the touch.
  7. Allow the brownies to cool completely before cutting.
  8. Top with coconut butter frosting or your favorite nut butter for a more decadent dessert.
The banana flavor is detectable in the final result, so if that's not your thing, I think you could try replacing it with mashed sweet potato or pumpkin puree. Applesauce may also work, but I find that it tends to create a gummy texture. These are not nearly as sweet as traditional brownies. If you want a sweeter baked good, I recommend doubling the agave nectar. Alternatively, you can use stevia or a combination of stevia and agave. Taste the batter as you go. Feel free to replace the brown rice, sorghum, and tapioca/potato starch with ¾ C. all-purpose gluten-free flour. Or, if you don't want to make gluten-free brownies, you can replace the flours with the same amount of whole wheat pastry flour (or whatever wheat flour you like) and omit the xanthan gum. I found that I liked these brownies even better the following day, after they had a chance to cool completely.


{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }

Caitlin August 13, 2012 at 10:29 am

these are awesome, girl! nothing to feel guilty about here! i love the minimal amount of sugar and how healthy they are. they look delicious, too! definitely a brownie that’s acceptable for breakfast ;)


Amanda August 13, 2012 at 10:54 am

Full disclosure: I ate one for breakfast this morning. Not a bad way to start a Monday. :)


Morgan August 13, 2012 at 10:35 am

Thanks for being realistic about oreos. It makes me crazy when food bloggers claim their recipe tastes like a name brand product when it really doesn’t. Can I also just say that calling something “Reeses” just because it has peanut butter in it gets on my nerves.


Amanda August 13, 2012 at 10:58 am

haha I hear you on the “Reeses” peanut butter thing. I personally think it’s better to say something was “inspired by” (in terms of the flavors/wanting to create a healthy alternative), but even that’s tricky. The last thing I want is to over-promise and have someone be disappointed by an otherwise good recipe simply because it doesn’t taste like a name brand.


dixya August 13, 2012 at 11:54 am

I couldnt be happier when i discovered that beans could be used in baked goods and no body even realizes that its beans. M going to have to try these brownies soon. I made some chocolate-mint cake over the weekend too which turned out great.


Amanda August 13, 2012 at 12:10 pm

I like the sound of that chocolate mint cake! Anything chocolate and mint is a winner in my book. :)


Lauren August 13, 2012 at 3:43 pm

Hahaha! Love it! I’m a little offended (not really) given that I tried to call a similar raw dessert an Oreo, but you cracked me up, so I forgive you. I haven’t jumped on the black bean brownie bandwagon yet….(say that 10x fast!), but these look good enough that it makes me want to! Beautiful pictures, btw…I came here from Foodgawker….your pic really stood out!


Amanda August 13, 2012 at 3:50 pm

Sorry about the Oreo comment! haha I’m also guilty of calling things by their brand name inspirations (hello, cool ranch Dorito-inspired hummus!). I’m so happy Foodgawker accepted my photo! I hadn’t checked that yet. The real test will be whether Tastespotting likes it. Someone there doesn’t like my “composition” 90% of the time.


Lauren August 14, 2012 at 1:08 am

Saw it on Tastespotting too! Good job girl, it looks great!


Amanda August 14, 2012 at 9:06 am

Yes!! Small personal victory. haha


Vicky (Sweet and Healthy Living) August 13, 2012 at 4:39 pm

Mmm.. these look so good and perfectly moist! My kind of dessert!


Amanda August 13, 2012 at 4:45 pm

Thanks, Vicky! :)


Bobbie {the vegan crew} August 13, 2012 at 10:21 pm

Gorgeous — and so fudge-like in the center! I love it! I’ve yet to try black beans in my dessert, but this recipe may change that.


Kathy Steger August 13, 2012 at 11:35 pm

These brownies look decadent. I remember last time I had brownies. I was pregnant with my daughter and made a whole box, ate them and gained 5 lbs. Haven’t had brownies since. I think its time to try your recipe. :)


Amanda August 14, 2012 at 9:05 am

haha That’s a great story. My mom likes to tell me about how when she was pregnant with me she drank Hershey’s chocolate syrup straight out of the bottle. I guess that explains my sweet tooth. :)


Sowmya August 14, 2012 at 8:12 am

Awesome and mouthwatering..



Amanda August 14, 2012 at 9:12 am

Thanks, Sowmya! :)


Katie @ Soulshine and Sassafras August 14, 2012 at 10:19 am

I’ve tried black bean brownies, and while they taste a little different, I still really liked them. In Japan they use sweetened bean paste as fillings in pastries all the time. I really liked it, but you’re right – people over here get pretty upset at the notion of beans in dessert.


Amanda August 14, 2012 at 10:28 am

Beans in dessert recipes is oddly polarizing. It’s almost comical how upset some people get. I really haven’t eaten too many Japanese pastries, but there’s a bakery right down the street from me. Might be time for a little taste-testing!


Lauren @ Oatmeal after Spinning August 14, 2012 at 10:35 am

I’ve made black bean brownies (and cake) several times- and love ‘em! I was soaking some black beans overnight this weekend and overestimated how many I’d need – and immediately thought of using it as an excuse to make brownies. Great minds think alike!

Oh- and I will have to try the frozen concoction you spoke of! I’ve done something similar- but only wish mashed banana- not coconut oil! I’m there!


connie curtis August 14, 2012 at 10:39 am

There are recipes with coconut flour too. I use to get sugar crashes in between meals so bad that I would shake and just feel bad after words. I found I had allegries.. food that is. I have also chosen to take out all grains. They were all making me sick and now i dont have the crazy crashes anymore.. I am sure that beans are a great subs for some people.


Ondina Maria August 14, 2012 at 11:20 am

Hi Amanda

I was just looking for this kind of brownies. Using beans in sweets does not put me off at all: in Portugal there’s a small cake made out of beans (it’s called “pastel de feijão”) and japanese cuisine uses black beans for many sweets, so the one you made seem perfect for me :)


Amanda August 14, 2012 at 11:28 am

Thanks, Ondina. I’m looking up “pastel de feijão” now… :)


amy@currylime August 14, 2012 at 11:35 am

A brownie for breakfast? I like the way you think!!


Amanda August 14, 2012 at 11:49 am

It was not a bad way to start my week, and actually, it kept me full for a couple of hours!


Corkie Stumpf August 14, 2012 at 2:02 pm

Amanda…what perfect timing! I have arthritis and fibromyalgia. I’ve been hearing and reading recently about a possible connection between gluten and inflammation. I’ve been a big whole wheat person since the 70’s, so gluten free is going to be a challenge, but I’m up for it. Thanks for sharing this interesting recipe and all the others as well. I look forward to trying them all!


Amanda August 14, 2012 at 2:18 pm

I’ve recently been reading about the possible gluten/inflammation connection too. It’s definitely a challenge to eat gluten-free (especially when you’re not eating at home), but there are so many wonderful wheat flour alternatives. A couple of months ago, I basically went to town and bought about 7 different kinds of gluten-free flours to play around with. It takes some getting used to, but it’s kind of fun too. I hope eliminating gluten will help you to manage your arthritis and fibromyalgia! :)


Cakewhiz August 14, 2012 at 8:54 pm

I want to eat these so badly! They look sooo fudgy …..mmmmmmm


Livvy August 15, 2012 at 12:29 am

Yum! Can’t wait to give these a try!!


Amanda August 15, 2012 at 8:07 am

I hope you like them, Livvy!


Ashlae | oh, ladycakes August 15, 2012 at 10:14 am

I tried eliminating chocolate from the house once. It didn’t turn out so great. Now, I keep a drawer full of chocolate at the bottom of the refrigerator for when my late night craving hits.

Anyway! These brownies look divine. I don’t digest blackbeans too well, but I’ve been dabbling with the idea of using sprouted lentils, instead.


Amanda August 15, 2012 at 10:30 am

A drawer full of chocolate sounds heavenly, but it wouldn’t last long at my house. Even if I managed to pace myself, Aaron would be all over that.
I really want to try sprouting beans and seeing what kind of an impact it has on my energy and digestion.


lauren @ the talking kitchen August 15, 2012 at 11:00 am

i love it! why should you get any crap for not wanting to pass out or feel sick to your stomach after eating a sweet treat. can’t wait to give these a try – including the beans :)


Kelly-Anne September 1, 2012 at 9:25 pm

Nice recipe. I love a simple brownie recipe which is easy for the kids :)
Thanks for sharing,


jess October 9, 2012 at 10:02 pm

I’m making these right now…first time making anything vegan and gluten free…what should the consistancy be like once all the ingredients are combined? Mines very thick…not sure if it’s going to work?!
PS yours look delicious!!!


Amanda October 10, 2012 at 8:31 am

Yes, the batter should be on the thicker side. I haven’t made “regular” brownies in a long time, so I’m not even sure what brownie batter is normally like! haha I preferred the taste after I allowed them to cool completely, but I’m sure that will depend on your personal taste preferences. :) I highly recommend frosting them with coconut butter!


jess October 10, 2012 at 10:44 pm

They turned out great!!! Thanks for sharing!!! I did want to try the coconut butter but they all got eaten before I got the chance, haha…even my super picky five year old enjoyed them ;) thanks again…I’ll be making these often :)


Amanda October 11, 2012 at 8:17 am

Oh good!!! I always get a little worried with recipes for healthy baked goods – I don’t want people to be disappointed that they don’t taste exactly like the more traditional version. So glad you and your five-year-old liked them!


Lindsay November 16, 2012 at 12:15 pm

So excited to try out this recipe this weekend! Recently I’ve been using “Cup4Cup” as my gluten free flour option. If I were to use this instead of the mixture of brown rice flour, sorghum flour, potato starch- how much flour would I use? Thanks and keep up the deliciously good work!


Amanda November 16, 2012 at 1:33 pm

You can sub in 3/4 C. total of GF flour. :) I hope you like them!


Sevrina November 28, 2012 at 5:05 pm

These look so good! I’m really looking forward to trying them! I’m vegan and very sensitive to many foods. I looked up “black bean cakes” and came across your recipe. I am just about to make a “lentil loaf” recipe I found online. I’ve been thinking of more ways to use beans as I don’t think I eat them enough for protein. I’ll definitely be checking out your other recipes.


Amanda November 28, 2012 at 8:16 pm

I hope you like the brownies! They’re definitely different from the regular brownies (aka brownies from a box), but I really like the texture and subtle sweetness. I think I can help you out with the bean recipes…I use them constantly! A search for “chickpeas” on my blog will probably return quite a few recipes. :)


sandra November 30, 2012 at 9:10 pm

These brownies are in the oven right now. I really hope they turn out (the batter was delicious!) because a)they’re healthy and b)I’ve tried lots of different wheat, egg, and dairy free brownie mixes in the box or bag and the consistency is always yucky.


Amanda December 1, 2012 at 8:15 am

I know what you mean, Sandra. The consistency for these brownies is not the same as traditional (in my opinion), but I liked them nonetheless. I actually prefer these after they’ve been chilled in the fridge, topped with a little coconut butter mixed with raw cacao for a chocolate frosting. :)


Sevrina December 6, 2012 at 10:40 am

Thank you Amanda! I will certainly check out your bean recipes!


sandra December 20, 2012 at 12:19 am

These have been delicious I’ve made them 3+ times now and even took them to a potluck w/ peanut butter frosting on them. They went like mad! I replaced the sorghum and potato starch w/ almond flour. It’s really more like a moist cake.


Amanda December 20, 2012 at 8:25 am

I’m so happy you like the brownies! The peanut butter frosting sounds fabulous! I’m going to have to try making them with almond flour next time.


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